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Non-Toxic Cleaning Products Explained

Non-Toxic Cleaning Products Explained — Meliora Blog

What are non-toxic cleaning products?

Non-toxic cleaning products are presumed to be made without potentially harmful chemicals, such as carcinogens, irritants, and pollutants. However, “non-toxic” is an unregulated term with no formal definition, meaning any product can claim to be non-toxic, regardless of the ingredients and chemicals found inside. There are a handful of synonyms, such as “chemical-free” and “toxin-free”, and a whole lot of related terms like “green”, “natural”, “safe”, “eco-friendly”, “organic”, and “sustainable” that are also unregulated. Finding non-toxic cleaning products is especially difficult because there is no federal law in the United States requiring companies to disclose ingredients in home cleaning and laundry products.

Despite the confusion caused by weak regulation and misleading marketing, “non-toxic” is generally understood to mean products made with human and environmental health in mind. It’s a natural starting point for most people looking to swap their toxic cleaning products for safer alternatives made with better ingredients. Fortunately, there are ways to go beyond the buzzwords and find products made without harmful chemicals.

What types of chemicals are considered to be toxic?

Chemicals in cleaning products are generally considered toxic if they are harmful to human health or environmental health. MADE SAFE®, a rigorous certification program for human and ecosystem safety, screens products for over 6,500 banned and restricted substances found in cleaning products, bedding, and other household products. This list includes carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, flame retardants, pesticides, toxic solvents, harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and a wide range of toxins affecting behavioral, developmental, neurological, and reproductive health.

Other harmful chemicals that are commonly found in cleaning products include:

  • Ethoxylated detergents, including sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), and polyethylene glycol (PEG)
  • Preservatives, including parabens and isothiazolinone (BIT, MI, MCI, etc.)
  • Phosphates
  • Phthalates
  • Bleach and optical brighteners
  • Plastics, including polyvinyl alcohol (PVA, PVOH) films
  • Synthetic fragrances, which can include hundreds of untested chemical components

The bottom line is that with so many harmful or potentially harmful chemicals found in household products, it is nearly impossible to identify and avoid all of them. Moreover, the ingredients present in an end product don’t tell the full story of how the product was manufactured or from where the ingredients were sourced.

How can I tell if a cleaning product is non-toxic?

The best way to find non-toxic cleaning products is to check for ingredient lists and independent, third-party certifications that evaluate ingredient safety.

Ingredient lists can tell you a lot about cleaning products. If the ingredients aren’t listed, don’t buy the product! Companies are not legally required to disclose the ingredients used in any home cleaning product. The absence of an ingredient list is a major red flag.

If there is an ingredient list, study it carefully. If you don’t know what an ingredient is, look it up. There are a lot of safe, effective, “non-toxic” ingredients out there with names that might be unfamiliar or sound scary. For example, sodium cocoate is the chemical name of soap made from coconut oil. Nothing scary about that. On the other hand, sodium lauryl sulfate (often called SLS) is a synthetic detergent produced through a process called ethoxylation that can produce carcinogenic byproducts.

Be wary of ingredient lists that include the word “fragrance”. This catch-all term allows companies to hide a wide range of ingredients. In the US, hundreds of ingredients in the "fragrance" family have never been tested for their impact. Organic essential oils such as lavender and lemongrass are safer ingredient options for scented products. When looking for the lowest possible impact, unscented and fragrance-free options are your best bet.

Third-party certifications can validate the claims a company makes about its products and ingredients. Each certification has a screening process and meaning, so it’s important to research them and understand their meaning. For example, the USDA Organic certification only applies to the production of agricultural products such as coconut oil and essential oils. That means a cleaning product with the USDA Organic seal can still contain synthetic ingredients like petroleum-based detergents. Also, a mineral-based ingredient such as baking soda cannot be certified organic because it isn’t an agricultural product.

MADE SAFE® certification involves a rigorous, scientific, and independent screening process focused on both human health and ecosystems. It investigates the entire supply chain from sourcing and manufacturing to the end product. Their “Ecosystem Approach” analyzes potential hazards including bioaccumulation, environmental persistence, contamination, aquatic toxicity, terrestrial toxicity, and human toxicity.

Leaping Bunny’s cruelty-free certification is the highest standard for companies committed to eliminating animal testing. In order to be certified, companies and their ingredient suppliers must pledge to clear animal testing from all stages of product development.

Are Meliora Cleaning Products non-toxic?

At Meliora, we design our products to meet the strictest ingredient safety standards in the industry. All Meliora Cleaning Products are MADE SAFE® certified and cruelty-free, meaning they are made with safer ingredients and without animal testing throughout the entire supply chain. We offer every product in an unscented option for those who are sensitive to scents or want the lowest possible impact.

Many companies take a blacklist approach, meaning they identify a list of ingredients to avoid, then make products that do not contain those ingredients. This reactive approach often focuses on specific toxic ingredients that are well-known to the public or regulated by law. For example, Tide reformulated its laundry detergents to reduce levels of the carcinogen 1,4-dioxane in response to a lawsuit.

At Meliora Cleaning Products, we take a whitelist approach, meaning we only use ingredients that are not known or suspected to harm humans or the environment. This proactive approach emphasizes safe, sustainably sourced ingredients that result in non-toxic products. For example, our products cannot contain 1,4-dioxane because they are made without ethoxylated ingredients. Instead of designing out 1,4-dioxane by blacklisting it, we started with a safer ingredient of coconut-based soap on our whitelist.

Our products are made from safer, effective ingredients including baking soda, washing soda, sodium percarbonate, and soaps made from coconut and sunflower oil. We always offer an unscented version of our products and we use certified organic essential oils for any scented products. We list every ingredient on the package and online so you know what’s inside. If you have any questions about our ingredients or products, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

If you’re looking to swap out your laundry and cleaning products for better alternatives made with safer ingredients, check out our products below:

Laundry detergent

Our Laundry Powder is just as effective as liquid detergent, but is ultra-concentrated, plastic-free, and preservative-free.

Stain remover

Our Soap Stick and Oxygen Brightener are effective stain removers that are free from harsh chemicals. The Soap Stick is a solid bar of vegetable soap that is effective at spot-treating fabric stains before a wash cycle. Oxygen Brightener is a color-safe bleach alternative and laundry booster that pairs well with our Laundry Powder.

Home cleaners

Our All-Purpose Home Cleaner Spray and Gentle Home Cleaning Scrub are gentle cleaners for your home. The All-Purpose Cleaner comes in solid soap tablets that dissolve in water for a plastic-free multi-surface cleaner. The Gentle Home Cleaning Scrub is a powder scrub made with baking soda and vegetable soap to power through stubborn messes on hard surfaces.

Dish soap

Our Dish Soap bar is a plastic-free alternative to liquid dish soaps. By making a solid dish soap bar, we eliminate the need for single-use plastic bottles.

Hand soap and body soap

Our collection of personal care soap includes our Foaming Hand Soap Refill Tablets and Bath & Body Soap Bars. Both plant-based soaps are vegan, plastic-free, palm oil-free, and made without synthetic fragrances.

Cover photo by Ron Lach